Durovis Dive and the Galaxy S4 – VR Match Made in Heaven?

By: Louis Edwards

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Samsung recently announced that they are working on a virtual reality (VR) headset for their Galaxy line of cellphones, but did you know that there is a headset already on the market that is compatible with most of them up to the Galaxy S4? We were sent a unit for review and mated it with both the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4.

Read on to find out what we thought about the Durovis Dive VR Headset.

Virtual reality headsets are gaining popularity these days, with console makers even jumping into the fray with both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus (We took the Morpheus for a spin recently at GDC 2014). Now that Samsung has announced their VR intentions, it’s obvious that VR is here to stay, at least for a while.

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The Durovis Dive Headset

For those of you new to the VR world, and wondering what exactly it is, this paragraph is for you. Virtual Reality refers to a computer simulated world that you are visually and audibly immersed in, using a stereoscopic display that is placed close to your face, with all outside images blocked out, and then coupled with sound (both multi-directional and omnidirectional), thereby creating a world that the user can be completely immersed in. Think of it as riding a roller coaster only it’s just for your eyes and ears (there’s a demo for that by the way).

Durovis’ headset isn’t just for Samsung phones. It works with a plethora of devices including most flavors of iPhones as well as some HTC models and some Xperia models. The full list of compatible phones can be found following this link (https://www.durovis.com/dive.html#compatible). We did try the device with an iPhone 4S and a 5C as well as the Galaxy S3 and S4. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is a bit too large for the headset, though, and that’s too bad because I really love my S5.

What's in the box?

What’s in the box?

Using proper headphones or a decent headset is a must in order to get the most out of the experience. We tried several different items, including Sony’s PlayStation Gold Headphones, some Degausse Labs headphones and the headphones that came with our Galaxy phones. For comfort and convenience, and great sound quality as well, we ended up using our Samsung headphones. They fit snug in the ear and do a great job of eliminating outside noise.

The Dive headset used two adjustable lens holders and two lenses to assist you in adjusting the device for your vision. We had a problem with the lenses falling out when inserting the phone, so be sure to stay away from hard flooring when getting ready to use the headset as you wouldn’t want the lenses shattering if they drop. The weight and design of the headset makes it comfortable to wear and to put on, with a padded face and a head adjustment strap that is easy to use.

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Once you have everything ready to go, being sure to disable the screen time-out feature on your phone, you’ll need to start the Dive Launcher App, and then insert your phone into the headset. These being touch screen phones, and with buttons all over, this can be a bit of a pain since you’ll probably be pressing buttons inadvertently. The S3 and S4 both have side buttons for power and volume, and we turned the screen off more than once while inserting it into the device.

Once you manage to get the phone inserted, the case closed, and the headset strapped on (pro-tip: do this while looking down) you are ready to look at the Dive Launcher App. There is a pulsing cursor centered on the screen, and this is how you’ll select what it is you want to do. The App is separated into three main areas: Sites, Apps, and Videos.

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Visiting websites using the headset isn’t fully integrated properly as the websites go full screen on your phone, and if the screen isn’t split in two it is unreadable wearing the headset. Same thing goes with the Videos tab from the main menu. The Video tab will take you to a “Getting Started” video that also goes full screen and is unwatchable while wearing the headset. The developer needs to set this up somehow so that websites and videos are automatically split into stereoscopic images so they can be viewed properly from these tabs.

The Apps tab is where all the fun can be found, as well as a video viewer that works the way it needs to. The first thing you’ll want to do is download a handful of apps from the Google Play Store geared towards the Durovis Dive. I strongly suggest trying out the Dive City Coaster first, as it can help you understand the head movements and limitations while in-game. Hang gliding and a wing suit app are also entertaining, but you’ll figure out pretty quick the biggest flaw with the system.

Dive City Coaster

Dive City Coaster

Our main complaint with this system, and really it’s just something that needs added in, is that navigating once in a game is almost impossible. Your phone is pretty much locked away from your fingers, and it’s impossible to touch the back key on your Android phone, so you’ll find that removing the phone from the headset is the easiest way to get back to the Dive Launcher App. This is a bit of a nuisance that could be addresses with a cheap blue-tooth game-pad or controller. I was given a free Zeemote a few years ago at GDC in my press swag bag, so I know there are cheap options out there.

There are a handful of games available for the platform, all of which are in dire need of a controller. One has you staring at robots and blasting them with lasers that are focus powered. A trigger and a controller would go a long way to make games more playable and more enjoyable.

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The depth and clarity of most of the apps are a bit lacking, with the exception of the roller coaster and the GoShow video viewer. GoShow takes your own videos, splits them into two separate screens, and then displays them in a theater atmosphere. This is by far the best way to watch movies on your device, as it almost makes it feel like you are watching on a big screen somewhere, and not just sitting in a chair, or on a plane, or train, or automobile (hopefully not driving of course).

This is a format that is in its toddler phase, with a bunch of room for growth. Samsung joining in will only accelerate that growth onto the mobile platform and should give developers more incentive to create more robust and full games that truly immerse the user in a world away from it all.

The Durovis Dive is a huge step in the right direction, and with it’s low price for entry, coupled with a device most people already own, should go a long ways to bringing more users, and more importantly more developers, into this expanding market.

Well done Durovis on a nicely designed, and well built device.

The price is 57.00 € or roughly USD$78, with free shipping

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